Libya‘s Tamazight People Restore Identity after 42 Yrs

If Yefren, Jadu and Western Mountain villages remained under Qaddafi’s control for a longer time, the Tamazight (Amazigh) people in those areas would have continued unable to say hello to one another in their mother tongue.

But now, after those areas had been controlled by rebels, Tamazight breathed freedom and can salute one another openly and in loud voice using their own language, according to Tamazight lady, Sarah Abboud, who shouted “azul bahra irghan” or “hello everybody” to a group of children who gathered to learn their mother language and Abboud will be their teacher.

Amazigh people in the Western Mountain areas of Libya are witnessing a historical tuning point.

Before the Feb. 17 revolt, prison was the punishment for anyone who uses Amazigh language.

Taghreed Abboud, 22, says enthusiastically: “They (Qaddafi officials) used to consider us second-degree citizens, while we are the indigenous people of this country. Now, we have right to walk keeping our heads up.”

Under Qaddafi, it was forbidden to use the Amazigh language in speaking, reading, writing and printing and Amazigh people were living in fear all the time.

Amazigh people live in Libya since the 7th Century, i.e. before the Islamic conquest of the country. They are famous for their fierce resistance to the Italian occupation in the early 20th Century.

Over years, they lost alphabets of their mother tongue because they were banned from printing them.

Sarah Abboud, 22, who took initiative to teach Yefren children their mother language, says: “Many people are unaware of their history…that’s why they are not ready to waste any minute to restore their identity.”

“It’s highly important now to teach those children their Amazigh language in order for that language to continue,” Sarah said.

Saleh Kafu, a 14-year-old student, has been attending Amazigh classes regularly since the first day. He says: “I see this as a building of the future. We will learn our language and our sons will learn it accordingly.”

A painter from Yefren started his paintings once again at an old building that was under Libyan Intelligence control for many years and now its walls carry anti-Qaddafi graffiti and paintings.

That painter, 47 years old, says: “I do not want stop writing or painting. I feel like I am reborn.”

The culture of Amazigh people has long been oral…never written, never recorded, never printed and the big task now for all Amazigh people is to write it down and collect the Tamazight myths and stories.

Under Qaddafi, there are many Amazigh persons who jailed for their fight for the sake of their mother tongue.

Now in Jadu, there is a radio station broadcasting in Arabic and Amazigh. One of its announcers – Silim Ahmed – says: “The Arabic and Amazigh bloods mixed in battlefields against the tyrant. We’ve one battle. We’re brothers. It is a struggle that will connect us for the coming 50 years.”

But they have long way to go in order to remove 42 years of bad practices by the Qaddafi regime…bad propaganda, wrong information and image deformation.